“But I did not know!”; “That can’t be!”; “It’s totally unacceptable!” These may just be a few of exclamations that people utter when they are apprehended while transiting, visiting or moving to a new country. As in most jurisdictions, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one.” Therefore, it is highly advisable to get acquainted with the laws and culture of any country that you visit.
This famous legal maxim is embodied in Article 42 of Federal Law No. (3) of 1987, otherwise known as the UAE Penal Code, which provides that “Ignorance of the provisions of this law shall not be considered as excuse.” For expatriates, tourists and people in transit to the UAE, here are a few laws and reminders on how to or not to conduct yourselves when in the UAE:
1 – Flashing the middle finger is considered scandalous and disgraceful, and is also punishable as a crime committed against honor under the UAE Penal Code.
2 – Do not use the “F” word! This is considered as a crime perpetrated against reputation under the UAE Penal Code. Detention and or fine shall be imposed upon anyone who, by any means of publicity, disgraces the honor or the modesty of another person without attributing any particular act to the defamed party. Penalty will be graver when the defamed is a public official or one in charge of a public service is abused while performing his duty or public service.
3 – Do not engage in consensual intimate relations outside of marriage. This is punishable as a crime committed against honor under the UAE Penal Code. Casual or serious, it does not matter. Cohabitation may be accepted in some countries and frowned upon in others, but in UAE, it is illegal and will land you in trouble specially when one conceives a child out of wedlock.
4 – Do donate to accredited charities only and obtain a permit for fundraising activities. Raising funds must have the approval of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments or the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai. The solicitation, promotion and collection of donations online without the proper license is punishable under Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.
5 – Do ask permission when taking photos of people and posting them. Otherwise, you can be held liable under Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes. It is considered an invasion of the privacy of another person to photograph others and publish their photos without their permission.
Every country’s culture must be considered, and its laws followed. Ideally, everyone behaves properly and abides by the laws. However, for those who lands in trouble, do seek the help and assistance of accredited legal consultants and advocates for advice and representation.